Question: Dear Dr Kathy, I have been sober and drug free for 30 days but I still keep dreaming about using. Is there anything I can do to stop these nightmarish dreams?
Answer: Whenever we try to make a change in our lives, the old self still haunts us. My experience with addictions and bad habits has proven itself to be a more difficult task to get rid of than anticipated.
On a conscious level we make every effort to be sober, drug free, attending our 12 step meetings, meeting new friends, getting a sponsor etc. But, at night when our subconscious takes over, it’s our sign that there is more work to be done. The subconscious is a creature of habit and continually battles against our will. We begin by consciously turning our will over to a higher power, but that’s just the beginning.
During the day we have the strength to fight against temptation. But when we sleep, we are vulnerable to programmed memory of habits and behaviors which haunts us until we erase the old and start anew.
Our success to recovery begins in our thoughts. The process is that thoughts become actions and actions produce results. As the thoughts and actions are continually reenacted and controlled, the positive thoughts and good habits will eventually over-ride the old ones and the nightmares will lessen more and more. You began your addiction with a thought of “one drink won’t hurt me,” or something similar. You acted on that thought on a regular basis until it became a habit you didn’t even realize you had. The same process works for recovery.
Continue positive thoughts and battle against the negative, only acting on the positive. Tell yourself often, something like this: “I am a recovering addict who wants a better life for myself without drugs. I will develop new interests and hobbies, new friends and a new lifestyle.”
Then put that thought into action! Make new friends, develop a new hobby, and dream about future goals regarding the kind of lifestyle you desire. I took this a step further by making a collage of my desires which kept me focused on my goals. On my collage I put a picture of Paris, a picture of a happy family around a dinner table, a picture of a healthy female, a picture of the college that I wanted to attend, and pictures of hobbies and events I wanted to pursue. Then I hung it on a wall where I would see it everyday.
As I put my thoughts into action, my nightmares lessened. Month after month things got better. Then it was a year, 5 years and so on. Each new goal that was accomplished, my nightmares diminished. I did go to college and graduated, I married a wonderful man for 20 years and we have two awesome children and some great memories. Today I am healthier then ever and I went to Paris in 2001 by myself, having a fabulous time. I have many hobbies and interests that continue to develop. I live a happier life now and remain 31 years clean and sober.
It all started with a thought and came to life with action!